As I am sitting here enjoying this week of having my baby and my newest 1st grader, as of last Friday, I am starting to wonder and maybe panic a little bit about what to do when my older two get out this Friday.  Every spring I have high hopes and expectations of how our summer is going to go and some years, it goes exactly as I planned and other summers because of tight finances, I feel panicked and worried that I might actually have to spend time with my 4 children!  OK, before you all freak out on me, that was a joke...the spending time part, not the finances part.

In my desire to keep the children from just sitting in front of the TV and playing on the computer, I try to give them enough activities over the summer without loading them up too much so they can still have the freedom they so crave and need.  It is really hard to try and figure out how to find balance in the summer months.  I love the no schedules, however, that can get old really quick sometimes. 

I have posted something similar to this in the past, but thought I would write more about some things you can do with your family this summer and tell you all about some of the things our family does with children ages 9, 7, 6, and 2.  Because as we all know, with children your summers can look different year to year depending on the ages your children are at.  It seems the older my children get, our calendars get a bit more specific and some months are much busier than others.

 For our family this summer we decided to take a break from having the children in any sports.  Summer sports often seem to get in the way of free time, cabin time, and being able to do other fun things like camps and such.  We know our summers without sports will probably come to an end sooner than later so, we are taking advantage of it while we can.  Instead our city(Richfield) has a free park program Monday through Thursday from 9am-3pm that includes a free lunch.  It is such a blessing for us because it gives us the opportunity to be able to let our children do an activity with friends, outside without worrying about 'how much it costs'.   This is the first summer our older three all can be in the program together and the park is a stones throw from our house so they get to walk, scooter, or ride their bikes there too.

Another thing our children are doing are various camps at our church.  Our son's camp starts next week and goes for 3 days all day long.  He not only gets to hang out with his church friends and hear the word,but this year because he is heading into 4th grade next year, he gets to see and do the word too.   He will not only be doing fun activities outdoors, he will also get hands on experience in serving others in the community and having fun while doing it.  Our older two daughters will also be doing a church camp later this summer.  Last year they both had the opportunity to try Sportslife camp at our church and had a blast trying new sports and hanging with friends.  This year they wanted to specialize their church camp experience a bit more and just focus on one activity.  So, one is doing an art camp and the other a dance camp.

In addition to those things, I have 1 child doing a little camp at her school with some friends while the other two are going to over-night camps up north.  Add in a couple weekends a month at our family cabin up north, our daughter participating in the Richfield Jr. Ambassador program, the local community pool and a family road trip and I think our summer is shaping up to be one of our best summers yet!   Along with the family road trip, I am taking my newly minted 1st Grader on a short road trip just the two of us.   Her school does Kindergarten three full days a week(MWF) and next year, now that she is a 1st Grader, she will be away from home 5 days a week for the first time.  She has seen her older brother and sister be gone that much and is very apprehensive about it.  She asked if her and I could just hang out together, no one else for a few days this summer.  How can I say no to that?!    So, we haven't decided where we are going yet, but some destinations on our very short list are:  The headwaters of the Mississippi, Duluth and the North Shore, or The U.P. of Michigan.  I haven't ever traveled with just one of my children so, I am probably more excited than my daughter is for that little road trip and time together.

That summer may sound busy and full to some of you but, looking at my calendar, there are many days/weeks still open for friend time, pool time, and just plain lazy summer time.  If you are needing some help in finding things for your children to do this summer, here are some websites and activities to look at plus, many of them are free or reasonably priced.    Because no matter how much or how little money you have summer, if not planned a little bit, can end up becoming really expensive, especially with multiple children!

Free or low cost activities:

-Minneapolis parks:  They have lots of options and many have kiddie pools that are free and the perfect depth even for the bigger kids on a hot summer day!
-Your local park program:  Many communities offer park programs similar to Richfield however, unlike Richfield, I do believe many of them do cost money, however they aren't too expensive.  For example, Edina's is about $10 a week.
-Museums and Library's:  Hennepin County libraries often have story time and other activities at their different branches that are free.  Plus, while you are there you can check out passes to local museums, the MN zoo, etc for FREE.  Perfect for rainy days or days you just need a break from the sun.

More moderately priced activities:

-Camps:  These can range all over the board, but there are many options out there and many offer scholarships or discounts.  Some camps we really enjoy and have used in the past or are using this summer are:  or check with your local schools too, as many offer summer day camps.  Some of the camps are day camps, some are just a day or a whole week, and others like Trout Lake and the YMCA offer overnight camps for all ages too.
-Pool Pass:  Get a pool pass to your city's pool.  The price depends on how many people are in your family and if you are a resident of that community or not.  While the up front price can seem overwhelming, we usually find it pays off after going about 5 or 6 times.  A strong suggestion to save some money is to bring your own food and drinks!  While many have concession stands, the food is often expensive and not very healthy.  

Don't forget about those all important play dates with school friends and family.  It is very inexpensive and fun to just head to a local park and BBQ and play games!

Hope you all have an enjoyable summer and don't forget for your school age children, learning never stops, find a few minutes each day to sit down with them and read, do workbooks, or learn about something new.  Their transition to the next grade will be much easier on them, you and their teachers if the learning never stops.

Happy Summer!



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